Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Budapest — Final Day in Europe

Happpy Anniversary to us!!!

Woke up too early this morning, again. We had a beautiful, peaceful breakfast on the patio of the B&B. The morning sun was very warm, it felt nice to eat out in the open air. Another traditional Hungarian breakfast with bread, slices sausages and meats, cheeses and local jams. The food in this town can be so simple, yet surprisingly flavorful.

We headed out for a guided tour of the Parliament building which we have heard such wonderful things about. We arrived a wee bit late — we didn't realize how long the ticket line would be — so we managed to join a 10:15 tour in English. The building is more breathtaking inside than it is from the exterior, however, we had a very hard time understanding the tour guide. A small group of French speakers thought it would be appropriate to join an English tour and then translate and generally talk over the tour guide that the rest of us paid a significant sum to hear. Why are you taking a tour in a language you don't understand when tours are offered in numerous languages, including French, on a regular basis?! Argh!

The Crown of St.
Stephen, Ceremonial Sword
Orb and 10th c.
Persian-made Sceptre
After the tour we walked around the area surrounding Parliament and found a cute little cafe where we stopped for a cold drink — its getting VERY hot today — and some sandwiches that we took to go. We attempted to visit the Ethnography Museum, however, the museum would force us to "check" our bags. The bag check was not orderly or secure, people just dropped their stuff on random racks and hooks in an unsecured area of the museum. Anyone could walk in and pick up random bags! I wasn't about to leave my camera in such an area. Instead, we walked back across the street to a park next to the Parliament building where we sat in the shade and ate our lunch. While we ate, a very large — 30+ people? — of Indian tourists came into the park armed with cameras and video cameras. They proceeded to get totally silly taking pictures and video of each other running around the park, posing on the large statues, etc. Totally hilarious people watching. Sometimes the best parts of a day come our of sheer coincidence, this was one of them.

The Lower House
of Parliament
We headed back to the B&B to cool down and relax for a short while before heading up to Castle Hill again to find the Castle Hill Labyrinth. It was a cool experience, both temperature wise and visually, to walk through the maze of caves beneath Castle Hill. It was the least interesting of our underground adventures over the past two weeks, but some incredibly dark corners did lend themselves to some interesting possibilities... ;-)

The Tree of Life
Holocaust Memorial

We then walked back to the train and headed into Pest. We explored the Jewish section of town and found some monuments to people murdered during the Holocaust. Unfortunately, the gates were not open so we couldn't get an up close look at the Tree of Life. Every leaf is engraved with the name of a local who didn't survive the Holocaust. Steph wanted to try a Jewish restaurant for our anniversary dinner. While very Jewish, the pork and shellfish on the menu was decidedly not Kosher (not that we cared). After an early dinner we headed back to Buda where we picked up a few beers at the grocery store and brought them back to the B&B to drink while we packed up our bags and got ready to say "Goodbye!" to our vacation and Eastern Europe.

The alarm is set for 4:30 A.M. (yuck!) so we can meet our 5 A.M. taxi for a ride to the airport and a 7 A.M. flight to Paris. From Paris we're headed to Cincinatti and then finally home to Atlanta and what we expect to be a very mad cat! I'm hoping that she didn't destroy any plants or leave any messes for us. We'll know in about 36 hours...

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